Burial grounds, old meetinghouses, property issues, oh my!
Quakers know a thing or two about the joys and challenges of caring for our sacred spaces. The Governance and Stewardship Thread Gathering this past Saturday gave Friends from local meetings an opportunity to connect, share resources and learn from each other. The morning panel and afternoon workshops offered many resources and tools.
The event centered on three topics:
- Greening our meetings
- Building revitalization and upgrades
- Burial ground maintenance and green burial
A challenging reality
Many Friends who attended the Thread Gathering shared a concern; meeting members are aging and there are less of us with the skills and energy to tend and manage the property. What can we do?
The Big Picture
John Marquette of Lehigh Valley Meeting offered a workshop on Meetinghouse Upgrades and Revitalization. His story of how Lehigh Valley faced many urgent needs for upgrades included valuable insights on how to assess the situation, funding projects, and greening your meeting while making improvements. You can find his presentation here.
“Our buildings and burial grounds have a mission beyond what we may realize,” Shelly Stackhouse shared in her panel presentation. She described how our properties can be a force for good in the communities where they are located. By creating a plan for our properties now, we can ensure that they will continue being sacred spaces for generations to come.
Panelists and Workshops Offered Inspiration
Shelly Stackhouse represents an organization called “Partners for Sacred Places” that all meetings should be aware of. They have many resources in print and online for faith communities who are stewards of historic buildings (including grants and consulting services).
Paige Menton is a member of Plymouth Meeting and caretaker of Gwynedd Meeting. She spoke on the panel and shared an afternoon workshop on “greening our meetings and burial grounds” through shifting our approach to landscape design. You can find her presentation here. Paige is the director of “Journeywork,” an organization that provides native plants and design support to schools, neighborhoods and congregations. This is a great resource for meetings who want to reduce their carbon footprint and increase the beauty of their grounds (not to mention, reduce the need for mowing.
Stewardship in Action
Jon Burton is the clerk of the Stewardship Committee at West Chester Meeting. He shared a collaborative project between the Eagle Scouts and the West Chester burial ground. The scouts helped create a new map of the historic burial plots and digitized the records. There was much discussion in the room about mapping and updating records. Jon helped Friends see ways to work with community volunteers to help this process feel well-supported.
Pioneering Quaker-Run Green Burials
In the afternoon, Bucks Quarter coordinator Wendy Kane shared vital information on burial ground maintenance. This soup-to-nuts slide presentation included many DIY tips and tricks to support meetings with burial grounds.
Wendy was joined by Dave Morrison of Lancaster Meeting. Dave is an expert on green burial, with 20 years of involvement on Quaker burial practices. Check out Dave’s website, Lampeter Green Burial Grounds. Friends are invited to reach out to Dave to discuss further.
At the end of the gathering, Friends sat in a circle to share reflections. Three themes emerged:
- Friends would like a way to connect with each other as issues arise in local meetings. Shared ideas included formation of a google group which allows for information sharing of wisdom and resources.
- Being together in person felt uplifting. It helps to know that no meeting is alone with their responsibilities. Talking about them, connecting, listening, and learning gives Friends energy.
- An inquiry was raised about whether there could be a person, committee or other resource that might be able to come out to local meetings who have questions or need support in the future.
Staff noted questions and are already working to explore possible ways to move forward responsively.
All who attended the gathering shared that it was a day of inspiration and value!